7 Types of Dermatitis in Dogs and How to Treat Your Pet

Written by Amber LaRock
Updated: April 25, 2023
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Have you ever noticed your pet scratching or licking their skin, only to see an irritated rash on the skin they are focused on? Your pet may scratch constantly and have a hard time settling, all because they cannot leave this irritated skin alone.

While itchy and red skin on your dog may not seem like a big deal, it can actually point to the painful skin condition known as dermatitis. Dermatitis in dogs can have many underlying causes, and it often requires medical care to banish it once and for all.

We want to give you the tools needed to treat your dog’s dermatitis, so let’s discuss everything you need to know below! We’ll cover the symptoms of canine dermatitis, the seven types of dermatitis, and how you can help your itchy canine friend!

Let’s get started!

What Is Dermatitis in Dogs?

Bulldog licking front paw

Canine dermatitis refers to an inflammatory skin condition that can cause significant pain for the pup affected.


Before we dive into the details of dermatitis in dogs, we should first make sure that you understand what this condition is in the first place. Canine dermatitis refers to an inflammatory skin condition that can cause significant pain for the pup affected. It often begins when a dog starts to scratch their skin frequently for any reason, triggering the inflammatory response known as dermatitis.

This skin irritation is painful in itself, but it also makes the skin much more susceptible to infection. Not only will the dog be dealing with the intense itchiness that the dermatitis causes, but they will often develop a secondary skin infection due to their constant scratching and licking. Before you know it, the pup will struggle to focus on anything else aside from their need to itch and bite their skin.

Due to the fact that dermatitis is often due to scratching at the skin, you will typically only see it in areas that your pup has access to, or areas that experience friction. The most common sites for dermatitis in dogs include around the ears, the paws, their stomach, and their armpits.

What Are the Symptoms of Dermatitis in Dogs?

The only way to get your dog the care they need to treat their painful dermatitis is by being aware of the symptoms this conation causes. Once you are educated on the signs of this irritating skin condition, you can jump into action from the moment you see your dog struggling.

Some of the most common symptoms of dermatitis in dogs include:

  • Constant itching
  • Chewing or licking their paws
  • Red skin
  • Inflamed skin
  • Dry skin or dandruff
  • Hair loss in the itchy areas
  • Skin odor
  • Sores on the skin
  • Crusting of the skin
  • Moist skin around the irritated areas
  • Stained fur due to saliva (often copper or brown)
  • Thickening of the skin in the irritated areas
  • Sensitivity in the irritated areas, and even significant pain for some dogs

If you notice any of the symptoms above, it is possible that your dog is struggling with dermatitis. We always suggest having your pet assessed by a vet, as there is typically an underlying cause leading to their skin irritation.

7 Types of Dermatitis in Dogs

dog with atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis in dogs refers to an inflammatory skin response that dogs with allergies can experience.


Now that you are aware of the most common signs of dermatitis in your dog, let’s dive into some of the underlying factors that can lead to this painful skin condition! Dermatitis is a diagnosis in itself, but it typically always has an underlying cause. Ranging from fleas to allergies, let’s discuss it all.

We should first mention that while the types of dermatitis we will discuss below have different causes, they lead to the same dermatitis symptoms we listed above.

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

Atopic dermatitis in dogs refers to an inflammatory skin response that dogs with allergies can experience. Dogs can be allergic to a variety of things in the world around them, ranging from plant pollen to the dust in your home.

If your dog is allergic to anything in their environment, they can develop a reaction anytime they inhale the airborne substances they are sensitive to. This can then cause an itchy reaction on their skin, leading to the diagnosis of atopic dermatitis.

Contact Dermatitis in Dogs

Contact dermatitis in dogs occurs when a dog’s skin comes in contact with someone they are sensitive to, or something that causes localized skin irritation. This can then cause an inflammatory response in the area the material or substance touched, and it may worsen as the dog begins to itch or lick at the region.

Contact dermatitis can occur with everything from dog shampoos, flea medication, topical antibiotics, and anything else that is applied to the skin. This typically means your dog has a sensitivity to the product, but it can also just be a result of an irritating ingredient within the product.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common forms of dermatitis seen in dogs. This occurs when a dog has a reaction to a flea bite, often leading to an itchy and painful rash on the skin. Dogs will then scratch or lick at their skin in search of relief, which will only cause more trauma to the area.

Flea allergy dermatitis can develop on any part of the dog’s body, but skin irritation will often be the most severe in areas that your pet can access. For example, you will often see patches of fur loss and irritation around the base of the tail, as this is a spot that dogs often chew.

Yeast Dermatitis

Yeast dermatitis is a common skin complication seen in dogs. This occurs when there is an overgrowth of yeast on the surface of the dog’s skin, leading to the painful dermatitis to follow. This form of dermatitis is often associated with a strange skin odor as well.

In many cases, yeast dermatitis is associated with some type of underlying skin condition. If your canine friend is diagnosed with yeast dermatitis, your vet will likely want to explore their symptoms further through skin testing and an assessment of their medical history.

Lick Dermatitis

Lick dermatitis in dogs develops when a dog is licking or chewing at their skin often. The licking and chewing can cause serious irritation to the skin over time. It can also introduce bacteria to the damaged portions of the skin. In many cases of lick dermatitis, it will lead to the development of a painful and infected hot spot. Lick dermatitis is most commonly seen on the paws, but it can develop on any part of the body.

Pyotraumatic Dermatitis

Pyotraumatic dermatitis refers to a skin complication that we mentioned above – hot spots. Hot spots are areas of skin infection that are often inflamed and filled with pus. They are typically very painful for the pup affected. Hot spots cause extreme distress for dogs, and many cannot rest properly due to the constant urge to lick.

Hot spots are typically a result of a dog scratching or licking at the skin frequently. This allows bacteria to enter the damaged portions of the skin with ease. For this reason, your vet will likely need to determine the initial cause of your pet’s irritation.

Mange Dermatitis

Mange refers to microscopic ectoparasites that impact the surface of the dog’s skin. The two forms of mange that we see most often in dogs include Demodex and Sarcoptic mange. Both can lead to serious skin irritation. Patches of fur loss can result from mange. In addition, many dogs will develop painful dermatitis as a result of their constant scratching.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Dermatitis?

If you think your dog may be suffering from a case of skin irritation, you may be wondering how you can determine whether or not it is a form of dermatitis. There are a variety of skin conditions that can impact our beloved companions, so the only way to properly diagnose dermatitis in your dog is by having them assessed by a veterinarian.

Not only is it important to have your dog examined to get a proper diagnosis of dermatitis, but your vet will need to determine the underlying cause of their dermatitis as well. This can include everything from checking their fur for fleas to performing a skin scraping, and even performing allergy testing when necessary.

Since there are so many potential causes of dermatitis in dogs, your vet will need to determine the underlying factor in order to offer them the best treatment methods.

How To Treat Dermatitis in Dogs

why do dogs lick themselves

Excessive skin licking can be a sign of allergies in dogs.

©Rattanapon Ninlapoom/Shutterstock.com

Treating dermatitis in dogs will vary based on the underlying cause of their skin irritation. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics or topical treatments to care for the skin discomfort. However, your vet will also need to address the underlying factor.

For example, if your vet thinks your dog may have developed a flea allergy dermatitis, then your vet will likely establish an effective flea and tick prevention protocol moving forward. If your pup could have a case of mange, you will need to banish the irritating ectoparasite.

Some cases of dermatitis may develop without an obvious cause. If this is the case, there will be a need to explore the situation further. Based on your dog’s current symptoms and medical history, your vet can determine the best plan of action moving forward.

One way to help your pet is by looking for the presence of fleas or dirt on the skin. If you do see any critters, then this is likely the underlying cause of their painful skin irritation. Banishing their fleas is a good step in the right direction.

Is Dermatitis in Dogs Contagious?

If you have a multi-pet household, you may wonder if your dog’s dermatitis can spread to other dogs. While the dermatitis itself is not contagious, your pet could pass on the underlying factor behind their itchy skin.

For example, your dog’s dermatitis may be due to a case of fleas. If this is the case, then your pet’s fleas can certainly spread to other dogs in the home. This stands true for certain types of skin mites as well, as these critters can spread through close contact.

If your pet’s dermatitis is due to skin critters, you need to be cognizant of other pets in your home. If their irritation is due to allergies or contact with an irritating substance, then you do not need to worry.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/WilleeCole

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About the Author

Amber LaRock is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics surrounding pet health and behavior. Amber is a Licensed Veterinary Technician with 12 years of experience in the field, and she holds a degree in veterinary technology that she earned in 2015. A resident of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Amber enjoys volunteering with animal rescues, reading, and taking care of her two cats.

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